Why The Pursuit Of Innovation Usually Fails

Adam Hartung,
11.09.09, 04:11 PM EST

It's not what we're trained for as leaders or how our businesses are set up to work.

Forbes published today "Why the Pursuit of Innovation Usually Fails."  "Most companies everywhere are struggling to grow right now. With their
revenues flat to down, they're cutting costs to raise profits. But
cutting costs faster than revenues decline is no prescription for
long-term success

The article goes on to discuss how from Gary Hamel to Jim Collins to Michael Tracy and Fred Wiersema to Malcolm Gladwell to Tom Peters — managers have been taught to identify their "core" and "focus" upon it.  Whatever that core may happen to be, the gurus have said that all you need to do is focus on it and practice and in the end – you'll win.

But unfortunately we all know a lot of very hard working business leaders that focused on their core, working the midnight hours, sacrificed pay and bonuses, and kept trying to make that core successful — only to end up with a smaller, less profitable, possibly acquired (at a low price) or failed business.  While the best practices make sense when looking at past winners, reality is that they were followed by a lot of people that didn't succeed.  Their best practices give no great insight to being successful.  They are of no more value than saying "treat people well, be honest, don't lie to customers, don't break the law, don't get caught if you do, show up at work."  Nice things to do, but they don't really tell you anything about how to succeed.

The mantra today is for innovation, but thirty years of these "best practices" now stand as a roadblocks to doing anything more than defend & extend the current business.  Only by understanding the objective to defend & extend what already exists can you explain how can one of the world's largest consumer product companies can call Tide Basic an innovation.

Enjoy the read, and please comment!